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Getting Started With Green Landscaping in the Mid-Atlantic

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Using a push mower to cut grass

How to Get Started at Home

Change Your Maintenance Practices

Even before you begin to think of changing your landscape design, change your management practices for your existing landscape:

Assess Your Property

Note site conditions such as:

Get your soil tested.

Take some measurements and make a rough map or plot plan.

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List Your Needs and Wishes

This is the brainstorming step. Do you need or want:

Where appropriate, make note of size and other requirements (such as a flat 20' x 20' plot in full sun for a vegetable garden). Once you have your list, prioritize the items in terms of importance, taking into account their practicality given your property and your budget.

Do Research

Before making a landscape plan for your property, do some homework using libraries, the Internet, arboreta, garden clubs, horticultural societies, nurseries, etc.

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A landscaping plan using native plants

Develop a plan

Put tracing paper over your plot plan. Rough in existing features that you want to keep, then add other features, starting at the top of your prioritized wish list. Most likely it will take several drafts before you successfully incorporate your needs in an attractive and well-integrated plan. Classes given by arboreta and schools may help you with this process. Many books and other publications also have sample plans.

Start small

Break down the master plan into manageable phases, such as the need to create some privacy from a neighbor or to provide shade to the house. As trees are usually purchased small and require many years to reach mature height, it's often recommended to include them early in garden installation. Also, they create shade and affect other conditions which might be critical for the success of smaller plants nearby.

Start with efforts that provide the most environmental benefits: remove invasives, reduce flooding and erosion, reduce energy needs, reduce air and noise pollution, provide habitat for wildlife, etc. As you gain confidence and experience, you can reduce the amount of grass you have and enlarge planting beds during succeeding phases.

Gain Acceptance

Sometimes green landscaping runs afoul of local weed ordinances or neighborhood acceptance. This most often occurs in neighborhoods that are highly manicured and where the owner makes a sudden and drastic change such as removing the entire front lawn overnight and planting a wildflower meadow. Before you begin such ambitious projects check local ordinances.

You can avoid problems with neighbors and others if you take some of the following measures, particularly for areas in public view.

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Community volunteers at work

How to Get Started in Your Community

Green landscaping isn't just for the home and, in fact, you can have more of an impact if you think larger. Public areas, including parks, roadsides and school grounds, as well as industrial establishments, commercial areas, and government managed lands are ideal places to apply green landscaping.

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